Imagine if your teeth and tongue yelled “Let us out! We can’t spend another day in here!” How would you respond? We often focus on body health, but not so much oral health. We need to come to the simple understanding that one doesn’t go without the other.

Recent studies have realized that the oral heath most definitely affects the overall health of our body; if that it does not cause an effect, it surely does add to it. Just as other parts of your body have bacteria, though mostly harmless, so does your mouth. As the mouth is the first point of contact before the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, any bacteria from there can easily be passed on, and some of these causes disease.

Good oral health care, such as regular brushing and flossing, and the body’s natural defenses, helps to keep the bacteria under control.  Despite proper oral hygiene, however, bacteria can reach levels that could lead to oral infections such as decay of the tooth and gum disease. Oral diseases are the most common non-communicable diseases, affecting people during their lives, causing pain, discomfort, disfigurement, and even death.

There have been indications stipulating that the bacteria and inflammation caused from the gum disease known as periodontitis may be involved in other disease. While diabetes and HIV/AIDS will lower the body’s immune efforts, making it more susceptible to oral health issues.

The saliva flow reduction, caused by some medications, example, antidepressants, painkillers and antihistamines; prohibits the removal of food and no longer counteracts acids produced in the mouth by bacteria, no longer protecting from multiplying microbes that lead to disease.

At times, bad oral health is masked by spending a lot on teeth whitening products each year, however, teeth whitening products can harm protein-rich tooth layer, and once that’s broken down, tooth erosion is next, and this then often leads to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) .

So let’s take a look at some of the diseases associated with deterioration of oral health. Poor oral hygiene can lead to dental cavities and gum disease, which we know, but it has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  According to the Mayo Clinic, oral bacteria and inflammation are associated with: 

Heart disease – some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.

Endocarditis, or inflammation of the lining of the heart – typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas of your heart.

Premature birth or low birth weight – Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.

Pneumonia. Certain bacteria in your mouth is pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

Dentists are in a unique position to detect celiac disease in patients if they know what to look for, according to the National Institutes of Health. Although the condition— an autoimmune disease in which gluten affects the small intestine — is associated with gastrointestinal symptoms, the teeth may also be affected by celiac disease, contributing to dental enamel defects.

Other problems that associated with oral health includes eating disorders, Anorexia and Bulimia- According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), with anorexia, nutritional deficiencies, including a lack of calcium, iron, and B vitamins, can cause tooth decay, gum disease, cancer sores, and dry mouth. Stomach acid from vomiting can erode tooth enamel with bulimia, causing sensitivity to hot and cold food, and altering teeth’s color and form.

Sjogren’s syndrome – If your mouth feels as dry as a desert, one possible cause is the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome, which primarily affects women over 40. With the disease, the body attacks the glands that make saliva and tears, causing dryness in the mouth and eyes and increasing the risk of cavities.

Malnutrition may alter the homeostasis, which can lead to disease progression of the oral cavity, lessen the resistance to the microbial biofilm and also reduce the volume of tissue healing. It may even affect development of the oral cavity.

Vitamin deficiencies, particularly deficiencies of B vitamins, folate, and iron, have also been linked to oral ulcers and painful fissures at the corners of the lips. Vitamin deficiencies can make it harder for your immune system to fend off infections in your mouth, which then results in the following:

Deficiency of vitamin A could lead to brittleness, degeneration of the salivary gland and increased risk of cavities. Infants are the primary group affected by vitamin A deficiency.

Deficiency in vitamin B can result in stomatitis (inflammation and mouth pain) or glossitis (inflammation and tongue pain) or oral ulcers. These issues are more common among the elderly, alcoholics, and vegetarian / vegans.

Deficiency in vitamin C can lead to inflammation of the gum, poor healing of the wound, bleeding gums, and loosening of teeth. In the case of problems related to vitamin C, older people, smokers, alcoholics and children whose primary nutrition source is cow’s milk are at a higher risk.

In extreme cases, vitamin D deficiency may cause the outer and inner layer of the tooth or tooth loss to under-develop. Children who are exclusively breastfed are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency-related problems.

Deficiency in fluoride can result in a higher risk of cavities affecting people living in none fluoridated water supply areas.

Deficiency of calcium & phosphorus during childbirth may lead to deformities of the bone, incomplete calcification of the tooth, malformation of the tooth, increased risk of decay in the developmental stage. If unaddressed, osteoporosis will occur, disorder in which the bone becomes porous, brittle and fractured. Certain risks of deficiency in calcium and phosphorus include mobility of the tooth, premature loss of the tooth, and decreased jaw bone capacity.

So in conclusions, oral diseases share common risk factors with disorders of general health. Individual behavior and lifestyle trigger these risk factors, such as an unhealthy diet (particularly one high in sugar), tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, and poor oral hygiene. It is important to recognize that by taking care of your oral healing, you can help prevent oral diseases and other health conditions.